I've been living in chronic pain for a while now (not nearly as long as some of the users on here, but it still feels like eternity) and just found this forum. I love the idea of being able to talk about this with other sufferers rather than (or, at least, in addition to) whining on to family/friends and/or shutting myself away to prevent said whining.
This is kind of a long story, so apologies in advance, but that's part of what these forums are for, right?
About a year and a half ago, I'd just finished the first year of my Ph.D. program (after taking a year off to work with and ride horses professionally). Horses and riding have always been extremely important to me, but as a grad student I'm also broke, so I found a barn near my program to work at. I was hand-walking a horse who'd had surgery and been on stall rest for a few months (and who was, understandably, full of pent-up energy); he spooked at something, reared up, and came down on top of me. All I remember are hooves everywhere; I honestly don't know how I escaped being stepped on. I could get up, though, and walk, so I assumed everything was fine. For the next few days I just took a lot of the ibuprofen and robaxin at the barn and gritted my teeth around the tears. Finally, I stopped riding and started physical therapy; after a month of no improvement, I was sent to the campus ortho for x-rays and an MRI. I remember a PA coming into my room and setting me up in a giant collar immediately without a word; through the open door I saw what looked to be everyone on that floor of the hospital gathered around the nurses' station staring at something (which I later learned were my x-rays).
My C6 vertebrae is at an unnatural angle; C7 has a giant notch at the top into which a corner of C6 fits perfectly. I should've been paralyzed. The ortho told me if I'd come in after the accident he'd have sent me to an OR immediately. As it was, I was lucky; my neck had somehow stayed stable enough for long enough that surgery wasn't necessary. I wore the collar for months, then went back to PT, then, finally, thought I was healed. At this point I'd lost my job at the barn for obvious reasons, but I always assumed I'd be able to start riding again at some distant point in my future filled with other magical words: degree, job, tenure.
Fast-forward about six months. I'd started running to fill the space that riding left: only three times a week, gradual 12-week 10k training program, nothing crazy, never any notable neck pain other than the usual weather/sleeping-related stiffness I'd gotten used to. The day I finished my last training run, I was working at my computer and must have turned my head in an unusual way: I felt a terrifying jolt of pain, and the increased pain wouldn't go away. The next day I felt some tingling numbness spreading down my left arm into the last two fingers. I panicked and went to the ER, had another x-ray; went back to the ortho, had another MRI. Lots of arthritic changes, but nothing unexpected; I just wasn't supposed to suffer these kinds of complications for another 20 years or so. Sent back to PT for another month of frustration and failure to improve. I learned that 20-somethings who don't have exciting and potentially life-threatening injuries aren't taken seriously by doctors. After a month and a half of unending pain (during which time I was taking tramadol and methocarbamol like candy, ibuprofen to the point of stomach ulceration, because I had nothing else), I went back to the ortho and broke down in tears in his office. I learned that this is what it takes to get some hydrocodone and a referral to a pain management dr.
Four days ago, I went in for steroid injections in my facet joints from C6-T1, and now I'm still in pain, if anything even worse than before. I know it takes longer than four days for the injections to have an effect, and that I'll probably have to go in again for more procedures, but this whole process has been so disheartening that I think I've lost the ability to hope. I've been on antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds for years, but they're no longer enough. I'm still taking too much ibuprofen and muscle relaxants despite their ineffectiveness; I take the hydrocodone (which is the only thing I've tried that at least helps take the worst of the pain off) very sparingly, because I still have trouble getting prescriptions. It's been over three months since I've been able to work on my research, since sitting at a computer for long periods of time is impossible, or do any sort of exercise other than PT. I'll probably never ride again, and I'm doubting my ability to finish the degree. I can't take time off because I wouldn't be able to pay rent (which is difficult enough with all these procedures) and I wouldn't have health insurance.
Anyway, I'm not sure what I'm looking for in writing this, but it felt good just to do it, so my thanks for that. And apologies, again, to those of you who made it through my pity-party.
compression fracture C6-C7 (7/11), developed spondylosis and possible annular tear(s);
facet injections C6-T1 (1/4/13)